Learning Gratitude
Colossians 1:3-8
Thank God for faith, hope, and love, and thank God for faithful teachers.
#faith
Published June 30th, 2021
Author
Share / Groups / About Author
Phrase
Notes
Phrase
NT
Colossians 1:3-8
esv
the Father
Explanation
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Relationship
We always thank God, ...
when we pray
Temporal
for you,
Advantage
since we heard
Ground
of your faith ... and of the love
Content
that you have
for all the saints,
Distinction
in Christ Jesus
Locative
because
of the hope
Descriptive
laid up
Locative #1
for you
in heaven.
Locative #2
Of this
you have heard before
in the word
of the truth,
Epexegetical
the gospel,
Gospel
which has come
to you,
Destination
in the whole world
as indeed ... it is bearing fruit
Comparison
and increasing—
as it also does
among you,
since the day you heard it
and understood
the grace
of God
Producer
in truth,
Context
just as you learned it
from Epaphras
Agency
our beloved fellow servant.
He is a faithful minister
of Christ
Possessive
on your behalf
and has made known ... your love
in the Spirit.
to us
phrasing
Notes
Verse 3 God is the Father of the 2nd person of the Trinity. There is obviously deep mystery here, mystery that we can never fully understand. We know enough to know that it's true and that it's good. Though God is our Father as well (though in a different way), that is not the relationship that Paul is speaking of here. Here, he's focusing on the relationship between the Father and the Son. Perhaps because the false teachers have been trying to either denigrate Jesus or lift other beings up to his level. Paul is saying that here that there are many wonderful things about Jesus, and one of them is that he is the unique, only-begotten, beloved, eternal Son of the Father in a way that no one is or ever will be. Jesus is no mere man; he's the Lord Jesus Christ. Here in the same sentence as the Father, Paul calls Jesus "Lord." Those who would say that the deity of Christ was a later addition to Christianity are deeply deceived. When I hear the word "Lord," one of the first things that I think of is Luke 6: "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord," and not do what I tell you?" Am I living like Christ is Lord? One of the things that Paul always does when he prays is give thanks to God. His gratitude is appropriate, for it is God who gives the increase in all things, and it's also encouraging for other saints to hear. I love hearing people say that they thank God for things about me, so why am I so reticent to do the same on behalf of others? Either I don't think there's anything worth thanking God for (wrong) or I'm crediting them for their own growth (also wrong). Paul does slightly modify the always by adding "when we pray for you." When Paul prays, which we know he did constantly, the growth of the Colossian church was always on his prayer list. One of the things I love about giving thanks is that it's a reminder that we're not talking to the universe, but rather a personal God who can be thanked. Verse 4 Paul's gratitude is not illogical. He doubtlessly gave thanks that there were Christians in Colossae, but his thanks in this particular instance were occasioned by hearing what was going in their hearts. So, what was Paul grateful for? He was grateful for their faith in Jesus. He was thrilled that in the face of persecution and temptation, the Colossian church was still trusting/relying/savoring Christ. There are many good things that we can be grateful for, but, without this one, they're all a fleeting thing. Faith is what joins us to Christ, and it's faith in Christ that saves. It's not faith in faith or faith in your own version of Christ, but rather faith in the actual, historical, risen Lord Jesus that saves us. Also, it's their faith, and faith has to be our faith in order to save. My parents faith can't save me; I have to personally confess and turn away from all other false gods and trust in Jesus for salvation I believe that the ordering here is significant. You can't say you trust in Jesus unless you demonstrate love for the saints, and you can't love the saints unless you have been transformed by Jesus indwelling you. Love is not primarily feeling; Love is a verb. Love entails taking the lowest place and serving. So here's the question: Do I demonstrate with my life that Jesus is my one refuge for salvation and satisfaction? Do I demonstrate love for the saints? All the saints, not just the ones that are easy to get along with? Verse 5 Faith, hope, and love are often listed together in the NT. What's unique about this passage is that hope is put forward as the ground for their faith and love. The logic seems to be "the hope" is so great that it empowers them to not just a one-time moment of faith in Jesus, but to keep on trusting in Jesus. The hope is so great that it empowers them to love those that Jesus died for. The obvious question is this: Is my hope in heaven? And is my hope powering my faith and my love? It may be that my life is easy enough right now that I can skate by with another power source. If trouble hits, however, and I'm not powered by hope, will it last? It's not because of "a" hope, it's because of the hope. The hope of resurrection? The hope of a new creation? The hope of the beatific vision? Perhaps all 3! Our hope is secure because it's been laid up for us, on our behalf. We're going to get it at the right time, but it's not up to us to keep up with it here on earth. Paul says they have heard "of this" in the gospel. The gospel has to be based on events in the past, impact our present, and provide hope for the future. A gospel that ONLY offers hope for this moment is no gospel. A gospel that only offers hope for the future, with no power to change in the present, is no gospel. Paul says that the gospel is the word of truth. Again, not a word of truth, but the absolute truth. The Colossians have different teachers trying to sell them different bills of good; only the gospel of Christ has the absolute truth in it. Accept no substitutes. Verse 6 The gospel has been there already, and the impact is visible for all to see. Paul is reminding the Colossians that the same gospel that they heard is transforming people in Jerusalem and in Rome as well When Paul says "whole world," he's not speaking of every single person without exception but of every single type of person with exception. Again, Paul is writing here with one eye on the false teachers. If the Colossians doubt the gospel, go to Rome and ask them. Go to Alexandria and ask them. When does the gospel make an impact? One, when you hear it. This is why we don't get zapped up to heaven the instant we get saved. We have to tell people. Notably, the Colossians didn't hear it from Paul, but from a man that Paul led to Christ. This is how we all get the gospel: Through faithful believers passing it on So, first you have to hear it, and hearing it is something that anyone, given the opportunity, can do. The second thing you have to do is understand it, and that's a gift of God's grace You can't take good notes and pay close attention to understand. It has to come from above. Verse 7 Verses 3-6 are all one sentence in the Greek. Verses 7-8 comprise another sentence. Paul is here giving Epaphras a pat on the back. Faithful Epaphras taught the Colossians the straight truth Paul both displays amazing humility and elevates Epaphras by calling him a fellow servant of himself. I grew up in a small town, and I can imagine the proud that these little Colossian Christians would have had in hearing THEIR pastor being described as a fellow servant of Christ alongside of the great Paul. The thing is, this is a not a PR game for Paul. He genuinely sees himself as a servant of Jesus Epaphras serves the Lord Jesus by serving the Colossians Verse 8 Epaphras has shared with Paul about the love they have for him, a love granted by the Spirit and empowered by the Spirit.
notes
Comments
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.